Where to Stay in Kyoto: Top Picks for Every Traveler
Are you planning a trip to Kyoto and wondering where to stay? Look no further!
In this guide, we have carefully curated a list of the best accommodations for every type of traveler, ensuring that your stay in Kyoto is as memorable as the city.
Whether you’re a solo backpacker, a couple on a romantic getaway, or a family seeking a cultural experience, we’ve got you covered.
Read on to discover our top picks for where to stay in Kyoto, and let the search for your perfect home away from home begin.
Understanding Kyoto’s Geography
The city layout
Kyoto, once the capital of Japan, is a city rich in history and culture.
The city’s layout can be described as a grid pattern, with streets running north-south and east-west, making it easy to navigate.
The Kamo River runs through the city, with the more traditional and historic neighborhoods located east and the modern, commercial areas to the west.
Kyoto is surrounded by stunning mountains on three sides, which provide a scenic backdrop and serve as natural boundaries between different areas of the city.
Public transportation options
Kyoto’s public transportation system is efficient and reliable, making it easy to travel between neighborhoods and attractions.
The city offers a combination of trains, subways, buses, and taxis to help you get around.
- JR West and the private Keihan and Hankyu railways are the two leading train companies operating in Kyoto.
- The Kyoto City Subway includes two lines: the Karasuma Line, which runs north-south, and the Tozai Line, running east-west.
- Buses are also a popular option for tourists, as they cover most of the main attractions throughout the city.
Key tourist attractions and their locations
Kyoto is home to an impressive array of historical and cultural attractions. Some must-visit spots include:
- Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion): Located in the northwest part of the city, this beautiful Zen temple is adorned with gold leaf and set amidst picturesque gardens.
- Fushimi Inari Shrine: Situated in southern Kyoto, this iconic Shinto shrine is known for its thousands of vermilion torii gates that create a mesmerizing tunnel-like path.
- Gion: Found in the Higashiyama district on the city’s eastern side, this traditional geisha district offers a glimpse into Kyoto’s rich cultural past through its well-preserved streets and architecture.
- Arashiyama Bamboo Grove: Located on the western outskirts of Kyoto, this tranquil bamboo forest is a must-visit for nature lovers.
- Nijo Castle: Situated in central Kyoto, this historic castle showcases the architectural splendor of Japan’s feudal era.
These are just a few of the many attractions Kyoto has to offer. Each neighborhood boasts unique charm and points of interest, so explore each area to make the most of your visit.
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Top Neighborhoods to Stay in Kyoto
1) Gion: A Vibrant Getaway
Gion is a well-preserved district that has retained its historical charm, making it a fascinating window into the past.
This geisha district is famous for its traditional wooden machiya houses, tea houses, and narrow cobblestone streets.
The area also has several temples and shrines, adding to its cultural significance.
Gion comes alive during the evening when the streets are illuminated by lanterns, creating a magical atmosphere that transports visitors back in time.
Gion is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Kyoto. Its rich cultural experiences, picturesque streets, and proximity to top attractions make it a worthwhile addition to any travel itinerary. While it may be crowded and slightly more expensive than other areas in Kyoto, Gion’s unique charm and atmosphere is unparalleled.
- Kiyomizu-dera Temple: This UNESCO World Heritage Site offers stunning views of Kyoto and is known for its wooden stage. Visitors can witness the temple’s beautiful architecture and participate in various cultural experiences.
- Yasaka Shrine: A favorite among locals and tourists, this vibrant shrine hosts the famous Gion Matsuri Festival every summer.
- Gion Corner: For those interested in traditional Japanese performing arts, Gion Corner showcases various forms, such as tea ceremonies, flower arrangements, and puppet theater.
- Hanami-koji Street: Stroll down this picturesque street, lined with traditional wooden houses and tea shops, for a chance to spot geiko (geisha) and maiko (apprentice geisha) going about their daily routines.
Gion offers various accommodation options, ranging from budget-friendly guesthouses to luxurious ryokans (traditional Japanese inns). Some popular choices include:
- Gion Hatanaka: This upscale Ryokan offers traditional rooms, kaiseki meals, and an on-site public bath.
- Kyoto Ryokan Gion Sano: A mid-range option, this Ryokan provides comfortable rooms and a central location.
- Guesthouse Soi: For budget travelers, this guesthouse offers private and dormitory-style rooms in a charming, traditional setting.
Higashiyama: A Journey Through Time
Nestled on the eastern side of Kyoto, Higashiyama is a captivating district that boasts serene temples, enchanting gardens, and charming streets.
Higashiyama is also home to numerous temples, shrines, and gardens, making it a popular destination for those interested in exploring Kyoto’s rich history and culture.
Higashiyama is an enchanting destination that offers travelers a unique blend of historical charm and natural beauty. Its rich cultural experiences, scenic streets, and proximity to top attractions make it an ideal choice for those seeking an authentic taste of traditional Kyoto. While it may be crowded during peak times and lacks a vibrant nightlife scene, the timeless appeal of Higashiyama will leave a lasting impression on all who visit.
- Kiyomizu-dera Temple: One of Kyoto’s most famous temples, Kiyomizu-dera offers panoramic views of the city and a stunning wooden stage where visitors can appreciate traditional Japanese architecture.
- Maruyama Park: This expansive park is famous for its cherry blossoms in spring and provides a relaxing escape from the bustling city.
- Kodai-ji Temple is a beautiful Zen temple with an exquisite rock garden, tea houses, and a bamboo grove.
- Chion-in Temple: The head temple of the Jodo sect of Japanese Buddhism, Chion-in hosts remarkable buildings and a giant bell, one of Japan’s most significant.
Higashiyama offers a variety of accommodations to suit different budgets and preferences. Some popular choices include:
- Hyatt Regency Kyoto: This luxury hotel boasts modern amenities, spacious rooms, and a prime location close to several attractions.
- Solaria Nishitetsu Hotel Kyoto Premier is a mid-range option with stylish rooms and a convenient location near popular attractions and public transport.
- Gojo Guest House: For budget-conscious travelers, this guesthouse provides traditional tatami rooms and a friendly atmosphere.
Downtown Kyoto (Karasuma and Kawaramachi): The Heart of Modernity
Downtown Kyoto is characterized by its modern commercial spaces, shopping centers, and lively entertainment options.
Karasuma and Kawaramachi are well-connected by public transportation, with the Karasuma subway line running north-south and the Hankyu Kyoto Line connecting the area to nearby cities.
The districts also boast a variety of dining options, ranging from traditional Japanese cuisine to international fare.
Downtown Kyoto, encompassing the vibrant Karasuma and Kawaramachi districts, offers a dynamic blend of modern amenities and easy access to historical sites. With various attractions, accommodations, and dining options, Downtown Kyoto is an excellent base for exploring the city. While it may not offer the same traditional atmosphere as other districts, its convenience and lively energy make it an attractive destination for many visitors.
- Nishiki Market: Known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen,” this vibrant market offers a variety of fresh produce, seafood, and local delicacies.
- Kyoto International Manga Museum: A must-visit for manga enthusiasts, this museum features a vast collection of manga from Japan and abroad.
- Teramachi and Shinkyogoku Shopping Arcades: These covered shopping streets offer a multitude of shops and restaurants, making them perfect for souvenir hunting and casual dining.
- Pontocho Alley: A narrow, atmospheric street lined with traditional restaurants and bars, Pontocho is ideal for experiencing Kyoto’s nightlife.
Downtown Kyoto offers various accommodations catering to different budgets and preferences. Some popular choices include:
- The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto: This luxury hotel features elegant rooms, a spa, and exquisite dining options, ensuring a memorable stay.
- Hotel Granvia Kyoto: A mid-range option, this hotel is conveniently located within Kyoto Station, providing easy access to public transportation and attractions.
- Piece Hostel Kyoto: For budget-conscious travelers, this modern hostel offers private and dormitory-style rooms and a friendly atmosphere.
Kyoto Station Area: A Gateway to the Ancient Capital
Kyoto Station is one of Japan’s most prominent and busiest railway stations, featuring a striking modern design contrasting the city’s ancient heritage.
The area surrounding the station is bustling with shops, restaurants, and hotels, catering to the needs of travelers.
With multiple train lines, including the Shinkansen (bullet train), local trains, and subway, Kyoto Station is a convenient base for exploring the city and nearby regions.
The Kyoto Station area is a convenient base for travelers, offering easy access to transportation, various amenities, and proximity to popular attractions. While it may lack the traditional charm of other districts in Kyoto, its convenience and accessibility make it an attractive option for those looking to explore the city and its surroundings.
- Kyoto Tower: Standing at 131 meters, Kyoto Tower offers panoramic views of the city from its observation deck.
- Higashi Honganji Temple: One of the largest temples in Kyoto, Higashi Honganji features stunning wooden architecture and tranquil gardens.
- Kyoto Aquarium: Home to a diverse range of aquatic species, the Kyoto Aquarium is a popular attraction for families and marine life enthusiasts.
- Porta and Kyoto Station Building: These shopping complexes within and around Kyoto Station offer a variety of retail, dining, and entertainment options.
The Kyoto Station area boasts many accommodations to suit different budgets and preferences. Some popular choices include:
- Hotel Granvia Kyoto: A luxury hotel within Kyoto Station, offering easy access to transportation and modern amenities.
- Dormy Inn Premium Kyoto Ekimae is a mid-range hotel with comfortable rooms, hot spring baths, and a convenient location near the station.
- Guesthouse Kotoya Kyoto Station: For budget-conscious travelers, this guesthouse provides traditional tatami rooms and a friendly atmosphere.
Arashiyama: A Scenic Retreat in Western Kyoto
Arashiyama is located along the banks of the Katsura River and is surrounded by verdant mountains, making it a popular destination for nature lovers.
The district features a mix of traditional and modern architecture, with numerous temples, shrines, and gardens scattered throughout the area.
Arashiyama is easily accessible from central Kyoto via train or bus, making it a popular destination for tourists and locals.
Arashiyama is a captivating district that offers a harmonious blend of natural beauty, historic sites, and a relaxing atmosphere. Its scenic landscape, rich cultural experiences, and tranquil setting make it an ideal destination for those seeking a serene escape from the city. While it may be farther from central Kyoto and crowded during peak times, the enchanting charm of Arashiyama is sure to captivate all who visit.
- Arashiyama Bamboo Grove: This enchanting bamboo forest is one of Kyoto’s most iconic sights, offering a serene and otherworldly atmosphere.
- Tenryu-ji Temple: A UNESCO World Heritage site, Tenryu-ji is known for its stunning garden and beautiful mountain views.
- Togetsukyo Bridge: This historic bridge spans the Katsura River, providing picturesque views of the surrounding landscape.
- Iwatayama Monkey Park: Home to a troop of Japanese macaques, this park offers a unique opportunity to interact with and observe the monkeys in their natural habitat.
Arashiyama offers a variety of accommodations to suit different budgets and preferences. Some popular choices include:
- Suiran, a Luxury Collection Hotel: This upscale hotel features elegant rooms, a spa, and tranquil riverside views.
- Arashiyama Benkei: A traditional ryokan offering authentic Japanese hospitality, exquisite kaiseki cuisine, and natural hot spring baths.
- Mulan Hostel: For budget-conscious travelers, this hostel provides comfortable dormitory-style rooms and a friendly atmosphere.
Types of Accommodations in Kyoto: A Comprehensive Guide
Kyoto offers diverse accommodations that suit every traveler’s needs and preferences.
From luxurious hotels and traditional ryokans to budget-friendly hostels and vacation rentals, everyone has options.
- Luxury hotels: These high-end establishments offer upscale amenities, elegant rooms, and top-notch service. Notable luxury hotels in Kyoto include The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto, Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto, and The Sodoh Higashiyama Kyoto.
- Mid-range hotels: Offering a balance between comfort and affordability, mid-range hotels provide modern facilities and friendly service. Notable mid-range hotels in Kyoto include Hotel Monterey Kyoto, Hotel Granvia Kyoto, and Solaria Nishitetsu Hotel Kyoto Premier.
- Budget hotels: For travelers looking to save money without sacrificing comfort, budget hotels offer basic amenities and clean rooms at an affordable price. Notable budget hotels in Kyoto include Hotel Mystays Kyoto Shijo, ibis Styles Kyoto Station, and Hotel Sunroute Kyoto.
Ryokans (traditional Japanese inns)
- Types of ryokans: Ryokans can range from small, family-run establishments to luxurious inns with exclusive amenities. Some well-known ryokans in Kyoto include Tawaraya, Hiiragiya, and Gion Hatanaka.
- Unique features and amenities: Ryokans offer a unique cultural experience, featuring traditional tatami-mat rooms, futon beds, and communal baths. Guests can also enjoy kaiseki, elaborate, multi-course Japanese dinners.
- Price range: Ryokan prices vary significantly based on the luxury and services offered. Budget ryokans can start from around $60 per night, while high-end establishments can cost upwards of $500 per night.
Hostels and guesthouses
- Types of hostels: Hostels in Kyoto cater to various preferences, offering dormitory-style rooms, private rooms, or a mix of both. Famous hostels in Kyoto include K’s House Kyoto, Piece Hostel Kyoto, and Mosaic Hostel Kyoto.
- Price range and amenities: Hostels and guesthouses provide budget-friendly accommodations, with prices ranging from $20 to $50 per night. Basic amenities like Wi-Fi, shared kitchen facilities, and common areas are typically offered.
Vacation rentals (like Airbnb)
- Types of vacation rentals: Vacation rentals in Kyoto come in various forms, including apartments, private rooms, and traditional machiya (townhouses). Examples of vacation rental platforms include Airbnb, Vrbo, and Stay Japan.
- Price range and amenities: Vacation rentals offer flexibility in terms of price, location, and amenities, depending on the property. Expenses can range from around $50 for a small apartment to several hundred dollars per night for a luxurious machiya. Extras can include Wi-Fi, kitchen facilities, and laundry services.
5 Tips for Choosing the Perfect Accommodation in Kyoto
1) Research Different Neighborhoods
Kyoto is rich in history and culture, with distinct neighborhoods catering to different preferences.
Before choosing your accommodation, research the various areas and consider what type of experience you want.
- For example, staying in Higashiyama or Gion might be a good fit if you’re looking for a traditional, tranquil setting.
- If you prefer a more modern, bustling atmosphere, consider staying in downtown Kyoto or near Kyoto Station.
2) Consider Your Budget
Kyoto offers many accommodations for every budget, from luxury hotels and traditional ryokans to budget-friendly hostels and guesthouses.
Determine how much you will spend on your stay and narrow your options accordingly.
Remember that staying in a more affordable area or opting for a smaller room can help you save money for other experiences in Kyoto.
3) Prioritize Accessibility
Kyoto is a sprawling city with an extensive public transportation network, including buses, trains, and subways.
When choosing your accommodation, consider its proximity to public transit options, especially if you plan to explore the city extensively.
Staying near a central train station, such as Kyoto Station or Kawaramachi Station, can make navigating the city and visiting nearby attractions much more accessible.
4) Look for Unique Cultural Experiences
One of the highlights of visiting Kyoto is the opportunity to immerse yourself in Japanese culture.
When choosing your accommodation, look for places that offer unique cultural experiences, such as a traditional ryokan with tatami mats and futon beds or a guesthouse that provides tea ceremonies or kimono rentals.
These experiences can add an extra layer of depth and enjoyment to your Kyoto visit.
5) Read Reviews and Seek Recommendations
Lastly, take the time to read reviews from previous guests and ask for recommendations from friends, family, or online travel forums.
This can help you find hidden gems and avoid potential disappointments.
Pay attention to feedback on cleanliness, service, location, and overall value, and use this information to make an informed decision about your ideal accommodation in Kyoto.